Many Americans today understand that driving under the influence can be
incredibly dangerous, as it’s one of the leading causes of car accidents.
However, many don’t know that driving while drowsy can cause accidents
in the same way as impaired driving. According to a survey by the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers
aged 18 or older has reported falling asleep while driving in the past
30 days. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also estimates
that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 accidents and 44,000 injuries in 2013.
Drowsy driving occurs when a driver is on the road while sleepy or fatigued.
There are a few factors that can contribute to drowsy driving. While a
major factor is that a driver is lacking sleep, drowsy driving can also
be a result of a medication, alcohol consumption, or untreated sleep disorders.
Drowsiness can be dangerous in that it:
- Slows your reaction time: This means you may need to brake or swerve suddenly,
which can result in collisions with cars in front of or beside you and
can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
- Affects your ability to make good decisions: When you’re drowsy,
you may make rash decisions, such as running a red light to get home faster,
or on the opposite end of the spectrum, you may decide to drive slowly.
Both create dangers for others on the road.
- Makes you less focused: When you’re drowsy and going in and out of
sleep, you can lose focus on the road and not see a crossing pedestrian
or a car that has merged in front of you. You may not also realize slowed
or stopped traffic until it’s too late to brake.
Who is More Likely to Become Drowsy?
Anyone can be drowsy drivers, though those who are more susceptible are
individuals who don’t get enough sleep, commercial drivers who drive
long shifts in their trucks, tractor-trailers, and buses, shift workers
who work long or late night shifts, and drivers who use medications that
can make them drowsy. Drivers with sleep disorders that have gone untreated
can also cause accidents.
Signs of Drowsy Driving
If you experienced any of the following warning signs, you should exit
the freeway or pull off to the side of the road to avoid creating any
dangers for yourself and the drivers and pedestrians around you:
- Missing your exit
- Drifting from your lane
- Yawning or blinking frequently
- Difficulty remembered the past few miles
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road
- Inability to concentrate
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
To avoid potentially injured yourself and others as a result of drowsy
driving, it’s important to get enough sleep and develop good habits
such as sticking to a daily routine. If you suspect you have a disorder,
you should talk to your doctor about a diagnosis and treatment options.
Before you take a medication, it’s important that you understand
if a side effect of the medication is drowsiness. If it is and you absolutely
need to take the medication, you should call a ride service or a friend
or family member to drive you instead.
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